When tomboy Alex Garrett was little, she realized a few things about her Wall Street banker father’s place of employment: “inside voices” were not necessary, there was a tantalizingly frenetic urgency, and there were boys everywhere. In short, Alex knew that Wall Street was the place for her. A decade and a half later, in 2006, Alex graduates from college and is hired as a bond trader for the firm Cromwell Pierce. Alex learns the ropes of her stressful job in a volatile economic climate, navigates a complicated office romance, and successfully maneuvers amid the fickle politics of a Wall Street firm. She is referred to only as “Girlie” by the men in her department. Alex has officially become the Bond Girl.
This is a timely read; the echoes of the 2008 Recession continue in 2012. Erin Duffy was a Wall Street “Girlie” herself, and after years in finance, was laid-off by Merrill Lynch in 2008. She uses her insider knowledge to craft a fast-paced, believable, and entirely interesting story about Alex’s life on the Street. Bond Girl does for Finance what I assume The Devil Wears Prada did for Fashion (if I had read it): provide a tiny window for the masses into a mystifying and complicated industry. And while Duffy includes financial lingo, the book isn’t weighed down by it. I couldn't define hedge fund if my life depended on it, but even I felt my heart race at the depiction of the excitement of the trading desk. The Wall Street office in which Alex works is vividly portrayed: phones ringing, lights flashing, a thousand monitors on which to monitor the market, employees eating breakfast sandwiches while swearing into earpieces, traders shouting across desks… no “inside voices” here.
Refreshingly, Duffy didn’t fall into the clichés that I expected her to. Alex was a strong and sassy girl who held her own in the Wall Street World of Men. And while Duffy could have easily portrayed a Devil-Wears-Prada-esque boss, he is actually a sympathetic guy, Alex’s biggest champion in the office. Part of the appeal of Bond Girl is that Alex felt like a real girl. If Alex WERE a real girl, we’d be the exact same age; I graduated from college in 2006, too. The reader feels Alex’s highs (successfully pranking a fellow employee; getting her own desk) and her lows (mishandling a trade to the tune of $93,000; avoiding the sexual advances of nasty Wall Street pervs) along with her; I laughed out loud and cringed in vicarious embarrassment.
And finally, Duffy’s first novel paints the behind-the-scenes people of Wall Street--the people that the public viewed as “criminals”--as REAL people. Yeah, there were some crazy office hijinks that involved a $1,000 wheel of parmesan and a trader who, for an office bet, ate one of every item in the vending machine in eight hours, winning $28,000 for his intestinal fortitude. (He sat in an office and binged. Alex was designated as the “watcher” to be sure he didn’t barf or cheat. All in a day’s work…) Blatantly depicted were office politics, revolting sexism and sexual harassment, huge Ivy League egos, and financial excess that made my stomach churn. But Bond Girl also depicted the humanity of the regular joes at the bond desk: not the greedy executives, but young idealists like Alex. Alex, who dreamed of a job on the Street to be like her dad, to compete with the boys, to challenge her smarts.
Rating: 4/5 stars. Really engaging and entertaining. Fresh and contemporary.